There haven’t been many films from Thailand here in the Horrorshow, despite there being a nice little industry for the horror genre in that country, going back decades. Ghost and supernatural films seem to be de rigueur. Today’s film, though, is a monster flick that was done in by its storytelling and some bargain basement dubbing.
The Lake, from writer/director Lee Thongkham, tells the story of a pair of monsters that emerge from a lake and begin terrorizing the surrounding village and city.
In the opening scene of the film, audiences see some villagers out on the lake at night, and a big monster appears. It’s not kaiju-sized, but it could give a real life Tyrannosaurus fits. But, that’s not the only monster. The next day a more human-sized scaly biped emerges from the lake, and that’s the beast that wreaks the most havoc.
The human drama of the film surrounds siblings May, Lin, and Keng (Wanmai Chatborirak, Suchar Manaying, Thanachat Tunyachat). Their father was one of the unfortunate villagers to encounter the big beast in the open, and he’s gone missing, never to be seen again in this movie. As they search the area for him, May ends up missing as well, and as Lin and Keng search for her, the man-sized beast appears. It rips through the villagers and leaves Keng with a nasty bite wound.
Meanwhile, the city government springs into action, eventually, tracking down and capturing the man-sized creature. But, before it can be killed, it’s discovered that there is some psychic connection between it and Keng, that has no apparent effect on the plot.
But, back at the lake, the large creature reappears to do battle with a police inspector (Teerapat Sajakul), who made the inexplicable decision to bring his daughter along with him.
If that plot seems scattered, that’s because it is. There are many characters in this film, divided into their own little groups, pursuing their own ends that are never quite explained to the viewer. There are even a pair of scientists (the credits are a mess, so I have no idea who played them) who are there ostensibly to provide exposition, but who never do so. There is a high-ranking official and his daughter, who are never really in danger, and who never show any personal drama, but Thongkham wanted us to know they were related for some reason.
The central focus of the story should remain on May, Lin, and Keng, but once the smaller monster starts its work, all cohesion in the plot disappears. In that, it’s like the chaos of real life, but this is a movie. Audiences need more glue than this film provides. Nor was it intentional on the part of Thongkham to have the film be so chaotic. It’s just rough storytelling.
The creature effects in the movie combine CGI and puppetry. At times it looks quite good, especially in night scenes where it is raining. Jurassic Park taught filmmakers that rain and darkness is an aid to CGI, and that becomes clear in this movie during the few unfortunate CGI shots that take place in the daytime.
What I take away most from this film isn’t the compelling creature work, or the flighty storytelling, or the drawn out personal drama that slows this film to a crawl in the final act. No, what I will remember is the terrible dubbing. The subtitles on the Thai-language version were so out of sync that I switched to the English-dubbed version early on. It’s so bad it’s funny. In moments where people on screen are fleeing for their lives, the screaming from the voice actors sounds like sloppy drunk chicks cheering at a New Kids on the Block reunion show.
And that’s a shame, because although this isn’t that great of a movie, it was better than the dubbing. Even unable to speak Thai, one can tell that, in the Thai-language version, the cast was doing well. And then the international distributors had to go and screw everything up.
The Lake won’t leave much of an impression on viewers, though, regardless of which version one will see. The creatures are decent, but the story, despite efforts to make us care about the characters, feels like a first draft. This one is for the curious, only.
Of final note are some curious credits. Two people are listed as ‘Chinese editor.’ I suspect that really means ‘Chinese censor.’ This movie, along with more Hollywood productions than one might realize, are having content decisions made by the Chinese government, and they are no friend to free expression.